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Fulham 2-1 Southampton: Ward-Prowse bags at both ends as Saints suffer late defeat

Southampton will begin 2023 at the foot of the Premier League after a late Joao Palhinha goal condemned them to a 2-1 defeat at Fulham.

James Ward-Prowse thought he had secured a first point under new Saints boss Nathan Jones after scoring a free-kick to cancel out his own own-goal.

But Palhinha struck a minute from time with a far-post header to leave Southampton rock bottom.

Fulham, meanwhile, will end the year as top dogs in west London after climbing above Chelsea and Brentford, despite top-scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic missing a stoppage-time penalty.

Fittingly it was their first home match since the death of their 1966 World Cup-winning full-back George Cohen, and a moving tribute was paid, with former boss Roy Hodgson and Cohen’s son Anthony laying wreaths.

Pele was also remembered before kick-off, and Saints striker Che Adams immediately tried to emulate the Brazil great with a shot from near the halfway line as Cottagers goalkeeper Bernd Leno was out of his goal.

He succeeded too as, just like Pele’s famous effort against Czechoslovakia, the ball drifted wide.

Fulham’s Brazilian, Willian, was then teed up by Andreas Pereira and fizzed a first-time shot into the side-netting.

Adams threatened closer to the Fulham goal when he got in behind, but he was quickly closed down by Leno who made a fine save.

Fulham were exerting more pressure, though, and took the lead in the 33rd minute.

Willian lifted a corner to the edge of the penalty area from where the lurking Pereira hit a volley which deflected off Ward-Prowse’s shin and looped into the net.

Pereira almost doubled the lead after the break when he met Bobby Decordova-Reid’s cross at the near post, but he could not steer it on target.

Instead Southampton equalised after Decordova-Reid committed the cardinal sin, fouling Adams in the perfect range for Ward-Prowse.

The England international duly obliged, curling a superb effort from 22 yards over the wall and past the diving Leno.

Kenny Tete could have put Fulham back in front after a spill by Saints keeper Gavin Bazunu, but the full-back shanked his shot wide.

Both teams pressed for a winner, and it was Fulham who snatched it at the death.

After the VAR had checked and ruled out a Fulham penalty claim, Tete headed on Pereira’s corner and Palhinha nodded it home.

Then, in stoppage time, a combination of Bazunu and Lyanco wiped out Dan James, but the Saints keeper kept out Mitrovic’s spot-kick.

Read more: Nathan Jones will ‘work religiously’ but Saints don’t seem to have a prayer or an identity

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